What does a compressed NHL off-season look like, you wonder?
We could see a draft lottery held between the qualifying round and Round 1 of the playoffs. We might have contract buyouts being executed in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final. And, if the stars align, we might see free agency start on the same day the entry draft is held in October.
Much of the NHL’s adjusted critical dates calendar is still considered tentative, but the potential look the league released Friday night as part of its return-to-play package certainly painted a chaotic picture about how it intends to finish the 2019-20 season and transition to 2020-21 in an expedited fashion.
Here’s a sampling of how it might look (** – denotes tentative date):
• July 13: Training camps open
• July 26: Teams travel to hub cities
• July 28-30: Exhibition games
• Aug. 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin
• **Aug. 10: Phase 2 of NHL draft lottery
• Aug. 11: Round 1 begins
• **Aug. 25: Round 2 begins
• **Sept. 8: Conference finals begin
• **Later of Sept. 25 or beginning of Stanley Cup Final: First Buy-Out Period begins
• **Sept. 22 — Stanley Cup Final begins
• **Oct. 4: Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final
• **Later of Oct. 8 or Stanley Cup Final plus six days: First Buy-Out Period ends
• **Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft
• **Later of Oct. 9 or Stanley Cup Final plus seven days: RFA/UFA Signing Period begins
• **Nov. 17: Training camps open (14 days)
•**Dec. 1: 2020-21 regular season begins